Tag Archives: David Foster Wallace

Infinite Words #12: Drugs

Here’s post No. 12 in the Infinite Words series. An explanation, if you missed it, is here. Buy the book here. Add your personal favorites in the comments.

Along with tennis and depression, drug abuse – related to the first two, perhaps – is a third pillar of Infinite Jest. Here’s some words on the subject:

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[Dad had] that smell about him that later Matty’d know was malt liquor but at that age he and Mickey called something else, when they smelled it.

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At a certain later age he started lying there when his Dad shook him and pretended to sleep on, even when the shakes go to where his teeth clacked together in a mouth that wore the slight smile Matty’d decided truly sleeping people’s faces always wore.

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[He] once hit his wife so hard in the blackout that made him Come In he broke her nose and bent it over flat against her face, which he asked her never to have repaired, as a daily visual reminder of the depths drink sunk him to, so Mrs. O. had gone around with her nose bent over flat against her left check – Bud O.’d tagged her with a left cross – until U.H.I.D. referred her to AA, which eventually nurtured and supported Mrs. O into eventually telling Bud O. to take a flying fuck to the moon and getting her nose realigned back to the front and leaving him for a male AA in Birkenstock sandals.

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[She was] awaiting sentencing for what she describes several times as operating a pharmaceutical company without a license.

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Sudden substance-cravings will rise unbidden in a true addict’s mind like bubbles in a toddler’s bath.

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Not to mention, according to some hard-line schools of 12-Step thought, yoga, reading, politics, gum-chewing, crossword puzzles, solitaire, romantic intrigue, charity work, political activism, N.R.A. membership, music, art, cleaning, plastic surgery, cartridge viewing even at normal distances, the loyalty of a fine dog, religious zeal, relentless helpfulness, relentless other-folks’-moral-inventory-taking, the development of hard-line schools of 12-Step thought, ad darn near infinitum, including 12-Step fellowships themselves, such that quiet tales sometimes go around the Boston AA community of certain incredibly advanced and hard-line recovering person who have pared away potential escape after potential escape until finally, as the stories go, they end up sitting in a bare chair, nude, in an unfurnished room, not moving but also not sleeping or meditating or abstracting, too advanced to stomach the thought of the potential emotional escape of abstracting, too advanced to stomach the thought of the potential emotional escape of doing anything whatsoever, and just end up sitting there completely motion- and escapeless until a long time later all that’s found in the empty chair is a very fine dusting of off-white ashy stuff that you can wipe away completely with like one damp paper towel.

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Infinite Words #11: Humanity

Here’s post No. 11 in the Infinite Words series. An explanation, if you missed it, is here. Buy the book here. Add your personal favorites in the comments.

We’ve covered characters in the book, and famous people. Now, several items related to human beings in general:

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‘We’re all on each other’s food chain. All of us. It’s an individual sport. Welcome to the meaning of individual. We’re each deeply alone here. It’s what we all have in common, this aloneness.’

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What metro Boston AAs are trite but correct about is that both destiny’s kisses and its dope-slaps illustrate an individual person’s basic personal powerlessness over the really meaningful events in his life: i.e. almost nothing important that ever happens to you happens because you engineer it. Destiny has no beeper; destiny always leans trenchcoated out of an alley with some sort of Psst that you usually can’t even hear because you’re in such a rush to or from something important you’ve tried to engineer.

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He and Hal exchanged the very slight sorts of nods people use when they like each other past all need for politeness.

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The day-shift nurse standing behind him and inclined over the back of the sofa to hold the monitor very carefully in place, the incline producing cleavage which Hal would gladly choose to be the sot of person not to note.

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Life has kicked his ass…It’s like something terrible could happen at any time. Less fear than a kind of tension in the region of stomach and ass, an all-body wince.

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If you asked Gately what he was feeling right this second he’d have no idea.

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And then it’s stuck there, the weary cynicism that saves us from gooey sentiment and unsophisticated naivete.

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The intercom calmly dinged. He heard conversing people in the hall passing the open door and stopping for a second to look in, but still conversing. It occurred to him if he died everybody would still exist and go home and eat and X their wife and go to sleep. A conversing voice at the door laughed and told somebody else it was getting harder these days to tell the homosexuals from the people who beat up homosexuals. It was impossible to imagine a world without himself in it.

Infinite Words #10: Celebrities

Here’s post No. 10 in the Infinite Words series. An explanation, if you missed it, is here. Buy the book here. Add your personal favorites in the comments.

We covered descriptions of fictional characters in the novel. Several celebrities pop up as well:

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Brando the new archetypal tough-guy rebel and slob type, leaning back on his chair’s rear legs, coming crooked through doorways, slouching against everything in sight, trying to dominate objects, showing no artful respect or care, yanking things toward him like a moody child and using them up and tossing them crudely aside so they  miss the wastebasket and just lie there, ill-used.

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NPR had a kind of roundtable on potential subjects – George Will’s laryngectomy-prosthesis sounded hideous. Hal preferred silence and traffic-sounds.

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Watt for a time was to Himself as DeNiro was to Scorcese, McLachlin to Lynch, Allen to Allen.

Infinite Words #9: Depression

Here’s post No. 9 in the Infinite Words series. An explanation, if you missed it, is here. Buy the book here. Add your personal favorites in the comments.

Infinite Jest talks a lot about tennis. It also talks a lot about depression. Here are some passages relating, loosely, to that:

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Everyone should get at least one good look at the eyes of a man who finds himself rising toward what he wants to pull down to himself.

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On a psychiatrist
You go in there with an Issue and all she’ll do is make a cage of her hands and look abstractly over the cage at you and take the last dependent clause of whatever you say and repeat it back to you with an interrogative lilt – ‘Possible homosexual attraction to your doubles partner?’ ‘Whole sense of yourself as a purposive male athlete messed with?’ ‘Uncontrolled boner during semis at Cleveland?’ ‘Drives you bats when people just parrot you instead of responding?’ ‘Having trouble keeping from twisting my twittery head off like a game-hen’s?’ – all with an expression she probably thinks looks blandly deep but which really looks exactly the way a girl’s face looks when she’s dancing with you but would really rather be dancing with just about anyone else in the room.

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There’s something elementally horrific about waking before dawn.

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It has been everyone’s failure to press any charges that had liberated the mother from Southeast-KY custody and allowed her access once again to her home’s kitchen, where, apparently despondent, she committed suicide by putting her extremities down the garbage disposal – first one arm and then, kind of miraculously if you think about it, the other arm.

Infinite Words #8: Telephony

Here’s post No. 8 in the Infinite Words series. An explanation, if you missed it, is here. Buy the book here. Add your personal favorites in the comments.

Here’s another set from a single section, this one describing the rise and fall of videotelephony:

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A traditional aural-only conversation – utilizing a hand-held phone whose earpiece contained only 6 little pinholes but whose mouthpiece (rather significantly, it later seemed) contained (6^2) or 36 little pin holes – let you enter a kind of highway-hypnotic semi-attentive fugue: while conversing, you could look around the room, doodle, fine-groom, peel tiny bits of dead skin away from your cuticles, compose phone-pad haiku, stir things on the stove; you could even carry on a whole separate additional sign-language-and-exaggerated-facial-expression type of conversation with people right there in the room with you, all while seeming to be right there attending closely to the voice on the phone.

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Try looking in the mirror and determining where you stand in the attractiveness-hierarchy with anything like the objective ease you can determine whether just about anyone else you know is good-looking or not.

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Callers of course found that they were once again stresslessly invisible.

Infinite Words #7: Things

Here’s post No. 7 in the Infinite Words series. An explanation, if you missed it, is here. Buy the book here. Add your personal favorites in the comments.

We covered descriptions of individuals earlier this week. Now, things:

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The early-November day is foggy and colorless. The sky and the street are the same color.

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Hal listened to a few minutes of the [music] and told his brother it sounded like somebody’s mind coming apart right before your ears.

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The same three or four booger-shaped clouds seem to pass back and forth overhead.

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On a new paint job
Its black has the bottomless quality of water at night.

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Gately’s always thought dark beer tasted like cork.

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Avril’s office’s blue-and-black-checkered shag is deeper than the waiting room’s shag, so that the border between the two is like a mowed v. unmowed lawn.

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‘I like the fans’ sound at night. Do you? It’s like somebody big far away goes like: it’sOKit’sOKit’sOKit’sOK, over and over. From very far away.’

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The sky’s combustionish orange had deepened to the hellish crimson of a fire’s last embers.

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It’s like a big wooden spoon keeps pushing him just under the surface of sleep and then spooning him up for something huge to taste him, again and again.

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The turn-signal red of the stairwell’s lit EXIT sign.

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A noteworthy thing turned out to be that the mound of earth on a freshly-filled grave seems airy and risen and plump, like dough.

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It was somehow sadistic-seeming, like drilling a peephole in the wall of a handicapped bathroom.

Infinite Words #6: Sports

Here’s post No. 6 in the Infinite Words series. An explanation, if you missed it, is here. Buy the book here. Add your personal favorites in the comments.

We covered tennis earlier today. Here are a few notes on other sports:

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On golf
Billiards on a big table. A bodiless game of spasmodic flailing and flying sod. A quote unquote sport.

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On college recruiting
Ohio State flew him out to Columbus for such a weekend of ‘prospective orientation’ that when Orin got back he had to stay in bed for three days drinking Alka-Seltzer with an ice pack on his groin.

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It was, pretty obviously, the start of football season. Crisp air, everything half-dead, burning leaves, hot chocolate, raccoon coats and halftime-twirling and something called the Wave. Crowds exponentially larger and more demonstrative than tennis-tournament crowds.

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The murmurs in the bleachers were like a courtroom at an unpleasant revelation.